A Paris Museum and France’s Short-Lived Sephardi Aristocracy

Moïse de Camondo, a member of a wealthy clan of Sephardi merchants originating in Istanbul, settled in Paris in the 1870s with other members of his family. After his death in 1935, his home—which he filled with fashionable 18th-century antiques—became a museum that still operates today as an unintended monument to a very particular slice of French-Jewish history. Christina Sztajnkrycer writes:

The [neighborhood where the Comondos settled, known as the] plaine Monceau, is a more recent part of Paris, annexed to the city in 1860. . . . Before annexation, Emile and Isaac Pereire, having “made their fortunes as financiers, railroad-builders, and property magnates, creating colossal developments of hotels and department stores,” purchased the plaine Monceau with the park in the center and started to develop the surrounding area. These two Sephardi brothers from Bordeaux, also creators of the upscale neighborhood surrounding the Opéra Garnier and the Hôtel de la Paix in Paris, dreamed of a luxurious future for this soon-to-be elite neighborhood. . . .

[T]he Pereire brothers were not just savvy investors with a taste for luxury, they also knew how to attract and convince the wealthiest Jews of France, Europe, and the Mediterranean basin to come live in the plaine Monceau along with many other members of Parisian high society. The outcome of the Pereires’ vision was “an unprecedented mixture of nobility of the ancien régime and empire, Jewish aristocracy, high-society Protestants, [and] members of the rich industrial and financial bourgeoisie.”

Read more at Stroum Center for Jewish Studies

More about: French Jewry, History & Ideas, Museums, Paris, Sephardim

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas